A record number of cyclists ride on Bike To Work Day

Ric Oberlink and his dog Sassy Girl rode a bike on Bike To Work Day. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Dozens of people joined Mayor Tom Bates and City Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Kriss Worthington on a leisurely ride through Berkeley Thursday morning as part of Bike To Work Day.

About 40 people gathered at the North Berkeley BART station around 8:00 am to link up and ride to the Downtown Berkeley Bike Station on Shattuck Avenue. Riders even got a chance to get a peek at the contested West Street Pathway.

“I’m really a walker,” said Bates after the ride, as he consumed a plate of pancakes covered with bananas. “I ride my bike occasionally but I walk to work everyday. But it was really a wonderful experience. It made me think I should ride more often.”

Mayor Tom Bates eating a plate of pancakes at the end of Bike To Work day. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The 2012 Bike To Work Day was the region’s most successful, according to the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. About 17,000 people biked in the region, a 22% increase over last year.

Ric Oberlink usually works from his West Berkeley home, but decided to ride downtown to show his support for biking. He may have been the only biker hauling a dog. Oberlink put Sassy Girl in a trailer he hitched to the back of his red bike. By early morning, she was wearing a “I biked to work” sticker on her head.

Berkeley is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Communities survey reported that Berkeley had the fourth highest bike-to-work ridership in the country. The city has a network of bike boulevards that make riding easy,

“Berkeley is doing an outstanding job,” said Dave Campbell, program director for the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. “They’re the real leaders in the East Bay and the area.”

City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli rode his bike to work on Thursday. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Berkeley has hit a road block, however, in completing the West Street Pathway, a route along the former Southern Pacific Railway right-of-way between Cedar-Rose Park and Strawberry Park. On Tuesday, the City Council voted to file a lawsuit against The Berkeley School, which agreed to give the city an easement for the path, but now wants to rescind it because of safety concerns. The contested strip runs between University and Addison Avenues.

Berkeley is also home to bike entrepreneurship. Architect and engineer Steven Grover designed the Berkeley Bike Bridge as well as the bike facility at El Cerrito BART. He noticed that there was no easy and secure way to lock or store bikes, so he invented BikeLink, an on-demand bike parking system. BART had always had lockers opened by keys, but BikeLink is electronic. It is now in place in 100 locations around the Bay Area, including the Downtown Berkeley Bike Station.

To celebrate the success of the day, the EBBC is holding a happy hour party at Ninth and Washington streets in Old Oakland. It starts at 5:00 pm.

Op/Ed: Safe cycling in wake of hit and run collision [04.30.12]
Video: Two cyclists struck by hit and run driver on Tunnel Road [04.27.12]
Podcast: What exactly are Berkeley’s rules of the road for cyclists? [11.29.11]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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  • Charles_Siegel

    The bike boulevards do make riding easy, as they say, but they still need improvement. There are three phases to implementing bike boulevards: 1) signage 2) improved crossings and 3) traffic calming to improve safety.
    Signage has been implemented, but improved crossings has been in limbo for a decade, though there are obvious improvements the city could make.
    For example, it used to be difficult to cross Dwight Way riding on the Ninth St. bike boulevard, but this problem was eliminated when they added a four-way stop at their intersection.
    It is still difficult to cross Dwight Way riding on the California St. bike boulevard. Why doesn’t the city get around to adding a four-way stop here?
    There are many similar possible crossing improvements, which could be done inexpensively and which could make a big difference in the convenience of bicycling in Berkeley. Why doesn’t the city move on this obvious improvement.
    I like all the talk about bicycling, but I would like it even better if there were more action to match the talk.

  • TN

    I can think of one simple improvement in Berkeley’s system of designated bike boulevards which would be very cheap to do.

    Move the designation of Channing Way as a bicycle boulevard two blocks north to Allston Way. Channing has no stop lights at Sixth Street, San Pablo Avenue or Sacramento. Allston Way has signals at all those intersections as well as at MLK and further East.

    Allston Way is relatively lightly travelled. There is not much motorized traffic between San Pablo and Sacramento because motor vehicles can’t cross Strawberry Park which cuts across Allston. Bicycles can cut across the less than 50 yards of the park.

    This is the way I bicycle to downtown Berkeley when I need to go at the peak of rush hour traffic. At other times, I don’t feel particularly unsafe using Channing Way even crossing San Pablo Avenue without a light.

  • Completely_Serious

    Dozens of people joined Mayor Tom Bates and City Councilmembers Laurie
    Capitelli and Kriss Worthington on a leisurely ride through Berkeley
    Thursday morning as part of Bike To Work Day.

    When I ride my bike to work, it’s not “leisurely.” But then, Tom and Laurie and especially Kriss don’t really have anywhere to go in any sort of hurry. It’s not like they actually “work.”

  • Guest

    Channing is a great bike street with less car traffic than Allston and a terrific bike-triggered stoplight at MLK.

  • Charles_Siegel

    But that would leave bicyclists with no way to get to south campus on an east-west bike boulevard.

    I can see Allston *plus* Channing, since Allston is a very good street for bicycling. I cannot see Allston *instead* of Channing.

  • TN

    When I’m riding a bicycle, I can make legal turns at intersections just as if were driving. (If I were walking, I’d have even more options.) If I need to get to Channing from Allston on a bicycle downtown near campus, I can make legal turns at intersections. We can steer our bicycles.

    There is no need for bicyclists or anyone else to have perfectly straight routes.

    I know that it is hard to believe, but adding stop lights to intersections is very, very expensive. Think of how expensive it is to dig trenches under streets to install conduits to carry signals and power wires without disrupting traffic. Conduits would need to be installed under or parallel to four cross walks at each intersection. Each of these conduits would have to be engineered to avoid all the other utilities which run at various depths under the pavement. In many cases some other utilities have to be moved to add a new conduit. This doesn’t include the material costs of the poles and signaling equipment. This is why installing new stop lights at previously uncontrolled intersections is so ungodly expensive.

    Adding new traffic signals at intersections on major streets can also be very complicated from a traffic engineering perspective. For instance. there has for a long time been a suggestion from bicycling advocates in Berkeley that the intersection at Channing Way and San Pablo Avenue have traffic lights installed to make the crossing easier for those cyclists on the Channing Way bicycle boulevard.

    But adding a traffic signal on Channing would make the signal sequence at the intersection of Dwight Way and San Pablo Avenue, just one block away, even more complicated. Remember that the traffic signals at Dwight are now designed to accomodate both traffic signal priority for AC Transit buses (particularly the 72 Rapid) and for the Berkeley Fire Department’s vehicles coming on Dwight from the fire station at Dwight Way and Eighth Street. Adding a potential stop light at Channing won’t make this simpler or more efficient for anyone regardless of which mode of travel one is using. I imagine that trying to legally cross San Pablo at Dwight Way on foot will take even more time than it does now.

    The simplest solution is to acknowledge that there is a perfectly viable alternate route to Channing for bicyclists just two blocks away on Allston. And after all, we are cycling. Two extra blocks cycling isn’t a big deal. Asking pedestrians to do the same is a different problem.

  • Leave earlier. Duh.

  • Just hop off your bike and use the crosswalk to cross Dwight at California. Bingo!

  • Eric McCaughrin

    On the issue of crossing improvements, there has been some progress. For example, the Caldecott 4th-Bore lawsuit settlement provides funding for improvements to the Hillegass/Ashby crossing. There are also grant applications in the works to hire consultants for work on the other major crossings.